Hualien city is on the east coast of Taiwan, just a few hours away from the capital city of Taipei. Unlike Taipei, which is a metropolitan city, Hualien is immersed in nature between the Pacific Ocean and mountain ranges and home to the Taroko National Park and Taroko Gorge.
While I wouldn’t recommend visiting Hualien as a day trip from Taipei, it is a fantastic location to spend 2 to 3 nights for the breathtaking scenery and laid-back atmosphere. Read on for practical travel tips for visiting Hualien, what to do in this seaside city and where to stay.
The best time to visit Hualien
With the exception of southern Taiwan, the island experiences 4 seasons throughout the year. Which means that it gets blistering cold during the winter months from December to February! The summer months bring monsoons and lots of rain, so if you are headed to Hualien then the best time to visit is from March to May and October to December. However, we visited in May during what was supposed to be a slightly drier month and it still drizzled lightly when we were at Taroko Gorge.
How to get from Taipei to Hualien
Taipei to Hualien by car: We drove from Taipei to Hualien and it took just over 4 hours. In my opinion, renting a car to get around Hualien offers the most flexibility and ability to see what you want when you want, all at your own pace. You’ll want to make sure, however, that you have a valid international driving permit and that your hotel offers parking.
Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
The coastal road from Taipei to Hualien can be very windy in sections with lots of people speeding, but there are lots of speed cameras so drive safely and within the limit so that you don’t get a ticket mailed to you after you get home! It’s also important to watch out for scooters as they often appear out of nowhere. Google Maps is very accurate and there are plenty of convenience stores along the way if you need to stop for a toilet break.
SIM cards can be purchased easily from Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport: you can buy a 3-day Taipei tourist SIM card for about US$10. When you exit customs turn right at the arrivals hall and you’ll find a few different counters operated by different phone companies – all of the companies have similar prices and connectivity, so just pick one with the shortest queue.
Taipei to Hualien by private transfer: Alternatively, you can also book a private one-way transfer from Taipei to Hualien via Klook here. The transfer will cost just over US$100. If you are traveling around Taiwan, I also recommend that you check out DingTaxi, a website that offers private transfers and tours around the country.
Taipei to Hualien by train: Taking the train is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get to Hualien from Taipei. Trains from Taipei to Hualien take approximately 2 hours and depart frequently. You can check the Taiwan train timetables here and Taipei to Hualien train tickets cost approximately NTD440 or US$15.
To get back from Hualien to Taipei, the Taroko or Puyama train will take 2 hours and runs frequently.
Fantastic things to do in Hualien
We stayed a total of 3 days in Hualien and felt it was the perfect amount of time. You should plan on setting aside 1 full day to explore Taroko National Park as there is more to see there than just the Taroko Gorge. Read on for some of the best things to add to your Hualien itinerary!
1. Explore Taroko National Park
This is a given – you can’t visit Hualien without checking out Taroko Gorge and the Taroko National Park (pronounced “Tai Lu Ge Guo Jia Gong Yuan” in Mandarin). Taroko National Park faces the Pacific Ocean on the east and covers an area of more than 92,000 hectares. Make sure you check out the Shakadang trail which is an easy flat 3 KM walk that will take you an hour round trip.
You won’t want to miss the ethereal Eternal Spring Shrine, and make sure you also stop to look at the Swallow Grotto and Yue Fei Pavilion and drawbridge. There are a number of hiking trails in Taroko National Park including the Baiyang waterfall trail, you can check the official website for route maps.
While we drove our car into Taroko National Park, parking is somewhat limited so you might want to consider an alternate option instead, and I wouldn’t recommend walking between tourist attractions in the park. You can catch public transportation to and from Taroko National Park from Hualien (bus schedule here) but I actually recommend booking a Taroko Gorge tour with a private car and driver so you can see the park at your own pace. Get 10% off your private Taroko Gorge car charter booking here.
Entry into Taroko National Park is free, you are only required to pay an entrance fee only if you are entering the Zhuilu Old Road.
2. Stay at a Minsu
A “minsu” in Taiwan is basically a homestay, but don’t think for a second that it means couchsurfing – it’s more like a bed and breakfast. Accommodation in Hualien is aplenty, but if you get the chance I recommend checking out Terrace Resort, a 15-minute drive away from downtown Hualien.
This cute B&B is run by Yvette and her team, and offers spacious rooms high above the nearby town. Each morning, we were served delicious homemade porridge, fresh organic vegetables, dumplings and my favorite Taiwanese dish: omelette with scallions and radish. Terrace Resort is also home to its resident pig (boar?), Bo Bo, who is outrageously friendly and loves a good belly rub.
You will need access to a car to get to Terrace Resort (and you need to drive up a single-lane road with 9 sharp turns), but I promise that the views are worth it. Click here to book your stay at Terrace Resort Hualien. If you prefer to stay downtown, check out some highly rated hotel options in Hualien here.
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3. Hit the Hualien night market
Taiwan’s night markets are in a league of their own, and the Hualien night market is no exception. Dongdamen Night Market is one of the biggest and most popular night markets in Taiwan, and has rows upon rows of game stalls, food and live performances.
Don’t miss out on the mango shaved ice here – it’s to die for! Check out this article for more tips for visiting Taiwan night markets.
4. Stuff your face with dumplings and buns
It’s no secret that I have a seriously soft spot for Taiwanese food. Food in Hualien is fresh, tasty, and cheap.
Don’t miss out on Gongzheng Baozi, a small shop selling a variety of dumplings and buns – order sparingly, because the portions are massive!
5. Check out the beaches
Beaches in Hualien are uncrowded and fairly pristine. The water can be chilly, so if you want to go for a dip your best bet is to head to Jici (or Jiqi) beach airsouth of Hualien city as swimming is not allowed at the more famous Qixingtan beach.
Ready to book your trip to Hualien? Click here to check out current rates and availability at Terrace Resort Hualien or head on over here for some hotel options in downtown Hualien. Check out more of my Taiwan travel tips and guides over here!
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